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Cantor Penny Kessler


Closeup of someone holding a remote at a TV screen

Think about what happens when a television or movie character is affected by a mind- or body-altering experience or takes on the heart or brain of another character. In “Beauty and the Beast,” it happens as punishment; in “Frankenstein,” it’s the result of a scientist obsessed with the nature of the soul; and in HBO’s “Westworld,” it happens when the programming of androids goes exceedingly awry.

In Jewish tradition, too, examples of man-made life exist. The earliest – in the late 16th century – is the Golem of Prague, created by Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel, who used God’s name...

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Charlton Heston as Moses in The Ten Commandments

When I was a kid, there was nothing better than hanging out on the couch on Saturday afternoons watching movies. I loved gladiator films, British horror flicks, westerns, and movies about faraway places. I had a massive kid crush on the god-like actors, and I desperately hoped to grow up to look like Joan Collins.

It wasn’t until later that I noted how few of these blockbuster movies were about Jews.

In high school, I saw the rerelease of Ben Hur: Romans were the bad guys, Jews were the oppressed good guys, and “ramming speed” became a household expression. It was my first...

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